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GF! Archival Version Copyright 1995-2004

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by Sega

Ups: Great graphics, character, and stadium models. 

Downs:  Graphics are inconsistent; controls are sloppy; horrible fielding; bad AI.

System Reqs:
Sega Dreamcast

wsb2k1_02-01.jpg (4027 bytes)I’m just sick when it comes to baseball. I routinely read the daily box scores for even Pirates-Brewers games, and I truly believe that baseball is a metaphor for just about everything, including and especially life. Such zealotry makes me a crashing bore at parties and perversely demanding about video baseball games.  Even if a game’s fun, little glitches in ball physics or running errors that most folks quite healthily ignore will cause me pain tremendous. So when Sega announced World Series Baseball 2K1 for the Dreamcast, I was skeptical. All of the previous Sega Sports titles for the Dreamcast have offered stellar graphics, pretty solid gameplay, and loads of fun. But each of them has also been handicapped by some fairly significant problems. I expected about the same from WSB2K1. 

wsb2k1_05-01.jpg (3544 bytes)I was wrong. WSB2K1 offers uneven graphics and wretched gameplay, and it’s hardly any fun at all. Even worse, for all its occasional graphic splendor, it utterly fails to capture the “feel” of a baseball game. While playing, I sometimes wondered if these guys had ever even been to a game, or if they were just handed a rulebook and some video clips and told to have a go.

wsb2k1_07-01.jpg (2482 bytes)Graphically, the game is a C in the way that a student that gets nothing but F’s and A’s is a C. Sometimes the game looks absolutely wonderful. The stadiums are lovingly rendered, players look very sharp, and lighting effects are a marvel. The player animations can be amazingly smooth and realistic. But there are problems as well. The crowd backgrounds, for example, are just hideous. And those lovely animations not only cause some major slowdowns, they are also very inconsistent. For example, here’s a typical play: Batter hits slow roller to left of the mound. Pitcher runs in place for several strides, apparently using well-known cartoon stratagem for increasing velocity. When ball rolls close enough, he runs over to it, executes a breathtaking pirouette, and fires the ball to first. In the meantime, the batter is laboring robot-like up the baseline. Play Ball! And though some of the animations are excellent, there seems to be a limited number of them. For example, I’ve never seen a routine popup to the infield. Every infield fly animation is a dramatic grab on the outfield grass.

wsb2k1_09-01.jpg (4127 bytes)And graphics are the game’s strong point. Gameplay is awful. First of all, the game only allows you control over the pitcher and batter. While you have a small amount of control over your runners, you can’t field at all. I suspect many players would use autofielding anyway, but it’s only a real option if the AI fielders do a decent job on defense. In WSB2K1 they don’t.  Here are some examples of fielding bloopers—shortstops who watch slow rollers wend their way into the outfield, third basemen who dive to the right for liners hit to their left, outfielders who can’t be bothered to break in for Texas Leaguers and often take the wrong angle on any liner to the outfield, allowing most of them to roll to the wall. I was baffled by this behavior at first, since it didn’t resemble any Major League baseball game I’d ever seen. But it seemed somehow familiar, and then it struck me—the fielders in WSB2K1 behave exactly like fat, drunk, middle-aged guys playing ball at a company picnic. If you can imagine all the players holding brewskis and nursing muscle pulls, WSB2K1 suddenly becomes ultra-realistic. But this isn’t Fat Drunk Guy Baseball 2K1 (there’s a game that awaits a-borning), and watching easy grounders consistently go for singles gets tiresome in a hurry.

wsb2k1_04-01.jpg (3174 bytes)The pitching and batting interfaces aren’t much better. To pitch, you choose a pitch type by moving the analog pad and hitting the A button. Unfortunately, the controls are very fiddly, and often you’ll end up throwing a different pitch than the one you thought you selected. This is especially annoying when you’ve set up a batter with fastballs for a changeup and the game decides to throw yet another heater. Sayonara, baseball. After choosing what you hope is the pitch you want, a power bar appears, and you select how much heat you want on the pitch. At the same time, you use the analog pad to choose location. I could never get the hang of this. The controls somehow seemed both sluggish and overly touchy, and most of my pitches either went right down the middle or smack into a batter’s head. Look, I’m familiar with “touch” location models—I play tons of High Heat on my computer, and know it can take a while to get the hang of them. But WSB2K1’s pitching game is just plain sloppy.

wsb2k1_12-01.jpg (3899 bytes)Likewise the hitting interface, which is operated by holding the right trigger and releasing it for the swing while selecting location with the analog pad.  Actually, this works pretty well once you get the hang of it, but it’s absolutely minimalist. There are no provisions for different swing types (power, normal, contact) and you can’t move the batter in the box. And everyone seems to hit a lot like everyone else.

wsb2k1_08-01.jpg (3795 bytes)But perhaps the worst gameplay glitch is the AI baserunning. If the players field like middle-aged drunks, they run bases like six-year olds on a sugar high. One of the first lessons we learn in baseball is not to run to the next base on a fly ball, but rather to go half way, to scurry back to base, to tag up. Apparently the players in this game missed that practice, because they gleefully break for the next base regardless of how the ball’s hit, and are constantly doubled and tripled up off routine fly balls. You have enough control over them to call them back to base on some fly balls, but this is a sad baserunning model.

wsb2k1_03-01.jpg (3097 bytes)OK, enough said. This game is a mistake, and its late release leads one to suspect it probably should have been held back until next year. It clearly took the development team a long time to model stadiums and players, and it shows. But it’s also clear that they didn’t have time to create a viable baseball game. Bottom line: if you care about baseball at all, you’ll probably hate this game.  And if you don’t care about baseball, why would you play it in the first place?

--Rick Fehrenbacher